The mosques today, particularly in the western world are expected to provide a variety of services other than just space for daily Salah (prayers). This is because the only congregational hub for Muslims in a non-muslim country is the mosque. Therefore Mosques are expected to cater not only for religious services but also at times social events within the Muslim community.
Purpose built mosques are far a few between in the western world, particularly in Europe. The older mosques are mainly converted residential buildings or vacated churches. Many a times even the direction of the Qibla is settled by making changes to the inside space i.e. adjusting rows diagonally or at an angle to the walls.
As mosques are not purpose built, many other facilities also cannot be provided. This includes parking space, social event space, separate ablution facilities for women etc. For this purpose, more and more Muslims are increasingly looking towards shifting their mosques to a purpose built facility.
As Mosque development is generally a community initiative, this article seeks to highlight the role of a modern day mosque. This will help the community to plan the mosque and in turn better manage community expectations.
There are five key roles of a Modern day mosque:
- Day to Day Services
- Special Services
- Social Events
- Outreach Program
- Youth Program
Day to Day Services
The five daily prayers and Weekly (Jumma) prayer is the core service of the mosque. The prayers timings vary with seasons and can becomes clustered in a short time frame during winters. Therefore this service itself require a full-time Imam. The time between the prayers can be utilized to teach Quran to the children. For larger communities, there is also a need for frequent burial prayers and wedding ceremonies.
Muslims often require advice on theological issues as well as issues pertaining to everyday life, upbringing of children, mediation, social and domestic conduct etc. For these concerns, they look up to a religious leader to provide them guidance and sound advice in discretion. Therefore an Imam who are specially trained in understanding the needs of community and providing counselling should be appointed in addition to Imam reserved for leading prayers.
Like every other community, there is often a need for holding social events as well socio-religious events (Valima, Aqiaqa etc) events in the Muslim community.
Although mosques do have large prayer rooms but its often impractical to host a social event in the very space. Furthermore many Muslims are not comfortable with prayer hall being used for any other purpose than prayers. Therefore a separate hall can serve the purpose of holding wedding receptions, Aqiqa gatherings or any other charity events. This separate community hall can also be used for training, seminars and workshops.
One of the most important role of a modern mosque that is often ignored is its outreach work. Religious services often need to be provided on sites out with the mosque. For examples, Jumma (Friday) prayers needs to be lead for Muslim inmates in Jails, hospitals or detention centres. Furthermore, particularly in the west, opinions for media are required in the wake of any event that effects the community. Imams that are media savvy, are needed not only to responsibly roll out statements but also manage noticeboards and social media presence of the mosque.
There is often a need to train wider community in understanding Islam and clarifying ambiguities. For this reason “Open days” and workshops should be arranged.
One of the biggest problems facing the Muslim community is youth bewilderment. In these incredibly stimulating times, with their unfermented perfectionist ideas, Muslim youth can often feel marginalized and isolated. It is getting more important than ever to re-engage with them. The mosque can create an environment that is conducive for youth congregation. Mosques can get them involved in charity work. Provide them an identity and sense of belonging and a space where they can freely discuss and debate their ideas. The provision of space will go a long way in keeping them off not only illegal activities (like drugs) but also help in addressing the bigger issue of youth radicalization.
In light of these activities it has been recommended that at least three Imams for each mosque that has over 100 attendees should be appointed. Sheikh Aamir Jamil opines “The work load on mosques with a single Imam is unbearably high. As a result Mosques are losing their efficacy in managing community expectations.” The sheikh is of the opinion that for every mosque there should be an Imam who is good at managing outreach work and another Imam who can provide theological advice to the community particularly on domestic issues.
Mosques therefore not only need to develop more space but also human resource to match it.
This article was written in consultation with Sheikh Aamir Jamil.